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Cases Pile Up As Public Defenders Are Stung By Budget Cuts

Publication Date: 
April 01, 2009
Stanford Report
Adam Gorlick

Professor Robert Weisberg, Director of the Criminal Justice Center, is quoted in the Stanford Report in an article about the effect the financial downturn has on the increased workload for public defenders:

Across the country, a shortage of public defenders and money to pay for them is creating a backlog of cases, forcing those charged with crimes to spend more time in jail awaiting trial or a plea deal.

"Public defenders have reputations, and most of the time they're not very good," said Mark Stephens, who manages Knox County's two dozen public defenders—far fewer than he needs to best handle about 11,000 cases a year.


Stephens was joined by four public defenders and a prosecutor who spoke at Stanford Law School on Monday about the problems caused by what they call paltry funding for indigent criminal defense in the country's state and county courts.


Law Professor Robert Weisberg, director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and moderator of Monday's panel discussion, said public defenders have long dealt with inadequate funding. But their budgets are being squeezed even more by a national economic crisis forcing state and local governments to slash their spending, he and the panelists said.